by Taylor Anderson & Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Taylor: If you read enough ancient ancient Greek myths you quickly realize that people have had complicated relationships with their parents since history began. Cronus was afraid his son Zeus would kill him and take over the world so he tried to eat him. Cronus failed. Zeus did indeed come to rule Mt. Olympus but not, without inheriting his father’s fear of his own children. Kate Bishop shares a similarly complicated relationship with her father, the only difference is that she doesn’t fear him so much as she fears to become him one day. This relationship is part of what defines Kate and the way she responds to it is fascinating in Hawkeye 11.
Kate’s life has been pretty messed up recently. She reconnected with her dad, which for most people is a good thing but for Kate it’s one of the worst. Her dad has a new cloned body he’s running around in and he’s also teamed up with Madam Masque. It doesn’t take long for Masque to betray both Kate and her dad, which in this case means she made a clone of Kate and transported her consciousness to this new body. Naturally, this leads to a showdown where Kate in a very literal sense has to battle herself.
The genius of this battle, as Kelly Thompson has scripted it, is that it works on two levels. The first and obvious one is that Kate is fighting Madame Masque. The second and deeper level that’s more rewarding to think about, is the battle Kate is fighting with herself here. As Masque notes, it seems like Kate is actually spending more time fighting her inner demons in this issue than she is actually fighting bad guys. The confrontation between Kate and her Clone very literally illustrates this point. It doesn’t hurt that Masque points it herself either. And while the metaphor is perhaps a little obvious, I still appreciate the way it sneaks into this issue as a logical part of the plot. Essentially, it’s a perfect blend of form (the metaphor) and function (the plot).
Kate comes to realize the inner struggle she’s undergoing as her confrontation with Masque comes to a close. With her foe dangling from the top of the Hollywood sign in LA, Kate has the choice to either save her nemesis, in true superhero form, or let her fall – something which her father, a super villain would do. It’s at this time Kate has a realization.
Kate sees that if she continues to give into her sense of grief and anger, she’ll end up exactly like her dad. The only way for Kate to move forward with her life and not become just like her dad is to work on changing her life for the better. That means finding her mom, severing ties with her evil father, and reconnecting with the friends that care about her the most.
After Kate has her moment of realization she saves Madame Masque and meets up with her friends. It’s here that Kate does the thing that is perhaps the hardest when it comes to changing something about yourself – she communicates her feelings to other people. For someone as strong willed and independent as Kate it’s difficult to admit things that possibly make you look vulnerable. Leonardo Romero perfectly captures the awkward emotions Kate is feeling in series of three panels as she speaks to her friends.
Easily these three panels could have been just one. However, by electing to use more panels, Romero captures Kate’s struggle to meet the eyes of her friends as she apologizes to them for getting them into trouble. The downward glance in the second panel paired with the pleading eyes in the third so effectively shows that for Kate, dealing with this emotional stuff is hard.
Patrick, I really liked this issue because it so delicately explores Kate’s feelings without ever becoming maudlin or sterile. Kate’s relationship with her father reminds me of ancient myth, only reversed. The fear she has of becoming her dad is real and perhaps the most heroic thing about her is her struggle to not let that happen. That being said, how did you feel about this issue? Where do you think Kate goes from here? Do you totally buy the idea that she could ever become her father? And with you living in LA, I’m wondering if you’ve ever fought someone on the Hollywood sign. It seems like a right passage for any Los Angeles resident, if comics and movies are to be trusted.
Patrick: It’s true. It doesn’t happen your first day in LA, but within the first two months, you’re given a golden movie ticket and told to board a TMZ celebrity home tour bus. You have to get on the bus at Hollywood and Highland, even though that’s like lightyears from where any celebs actually live. But, y’know there’s the Walk of Fame and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre right there, so it feels show-biz-y. Anyway, they load you up on this tour bus in front of theKodak Theatre (across the street from where they film Kimmel!), and you and about 67 other aspiring actors, writers and comedians ride past the Capital Records building and up to the Hollywood sign. Obviously, the bus also stops at the Griffith Observatory so you can all pray to James Dean bust outside. Then, when you finally get to the sign, Michael Bay or Tim Burton or Stephen Spielberg will be on-site wearing a white beret and sitting in a tall chair labeled DIRECTOR. He says “okay, let’s make some stars” and everyone starts fighting.
Oh and the whole time, people are complaining about traffic.
Taylor, I’m sure there’s a danger in Kate becoming her father, but I think Romero mounts a pretty compelling case that the two characters are about as opposite as they could be. I’m super happy you pulled that three-panel sequence of Kate resisting eye contact with her friends before choosing to engage them head on. There’s a similar series early on in the issue which shows her father doing just the opposite with her.
If Kate’s move is to offer up more of herself as the going gets rough, her father’s move is to withdrawal on that same timeline. He shuts down, literally closing his eyes and turning his face away. Even with his mouth covered with tape, he’s looking for a way to not have to communicate with her.
That fundamental difference between them is Kate’s embrace of her own vulnerability. I was teasing a little about the LA specifics in this issue, but there’s such a strong sense of place associated with Kate’s struggle to assert her identity against both her past and her own body. I can’t think of a more typically “Hollywood” story… at least, in the abstract. After Kate rescues Madam Masque, the villain quickly turns on her only to be picked off the sign by an LAPD sharpshooter. Kate’s happy for the assist, but asks the lingering question “how did you know which was was the real me?” Romero makes the answer obvious before Thompson just comes out an says it:
Kate Bishop always has bandages on her face. Look at those two panels leading up to that statement: bandage, bandage. The bandages are actually surprising loaded imagery, as it does more to link Bishop to a totally different crappy father figure – Clint Barton. The identity of Hawkeye, and the attendant heroism, is the life she chose and not the life she was born into. Additionally, each bandage represents a wound she sustained being a goddamned hero (again, just like Clint). You know which Kate is the real Kate because you can see the marks of her good deeds right there on her face. It’s vulnerable and it’s honest.
Which has me pumped for the turn at the end of the issue. Kate moves on to something closer to what she actually wants: finding her mother. She pulls the “Derek Bishop” index card off the board, ripping it in half with thumbtack still in the cork board, and replaces it with a post-it note that simply reads MOM.
It’s so much softer than the noire detective bulletin board she had up there before. Romero leaves scraps of her old search still on the board, corners of photographs still taped to the thing, threads loosely tacked to a web that no longer connects. None of the rest of that stuff matters anymore, it’s just about Kate looking for her mother. The reverse shot to end the issue is also brilliant: a quick reminder of Kate’s vulnerabilities–the low angle emphasizing the bandage on her cheek–and tears welling in her eyes. She no longer fears becoming her father, but looks forward to meeting her mother. Which Greek god makes that turn?
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I wonder why Fraction chose to use Madame Masque in his run? Honestly, I always assumed it was merely a choice of positioning. Fraction was looking for a nemesis for Kate, wanted a female villain, someone connected to crime, with enough uniqueness that interesting stories could be generated, but lacking a place in the current Marvel Universe and therefore easily used become Kate’s nemesis. Enter Madame Masque, an old Iron Man villain that the Iron Man books had grown past, that fits into the greater crime stuff that overlooked the entire run. Perfect.
That’s how I’d always seen Madame Masque in Hawkeye. Which isn’t to say she isn’t a great villain (she is), but that everything that has been done to make her a great villain for Kate was done through relationship building in Fraction’s run. What Thompson does so well in really dig into her history and parallel it to Kate, making her more than just a great villain, but the perfect dark mirror.
There is a lot of focus on how they are the same, but one thing I love is how the issue never reminds us how different they are. Madame Masque isn’t Kate, but it is who Kate could be. I love any panel where the two Kates share the panel, because it really shows the fundamental difference. Are they both spoiled brats with daddy issues? Yes. But it is interesting to see, visually, the difference. Kate has her bow and quiver, while Masque has nothing. Kate has her hair in a practical for combat haircut, while Masque has her’s beautifully prepared for partying. Kate’s face is so full of plasters that Rivera knows who to shoot, while Masque’s is flawless. Kate may be a spoilt brat, but she’s putting in the work to redeem herself. Masque embraces it.
Honestly, throughout, Thompson makes the case for why Madame Masque is a great nemesis thematically. Hell, even her plot to steal Kate’s genetic ‘inheritance’, works wonderfully.
And, of course, all of this connects to the psychological struggles that KAte has been going through. Because facing her dark mirror is exactly what Kate needs to doto get past her current issues with he rfather. It is only by defeating her dark mirror, she can face reality and admit to her friends that her father is a villain. It is only by facing reality she can confront her own past, and her own mother’s death. And it is only by defeating her own past, that she can escape her obsessions and start making positive changes to her life, like admitting her attraction to Johnny (I am disappointed that the friends did not have a hero moment. A story like this needed the friends to have that chance. THe friends are great fun as a gang, but I hope we get some real development of their individual identities soon)
And now, Kate is moving forward. And what better way to demonstrate that than throwing away everything on her cork board and setting herself a new mission. Her mother
Taylor, I’m not sure you uses form and function correctly. Whenever I seen those concepts discussed (And when I use those terms), I’ve always seen it being used as a better calibrated way to discuss style and substance. So form is what you do. It is the plot, the metaphors, the tone, the atmosphere, the paneling, literally every choice made on how to tell the story. The function is about intended effect.
This issue is a fantastic example of form and function in unity, but not for the reason you said. The form is the metaphor of fighting Masque in Kate’s body, and the function is Kate facing her own inner demons. The fact that the metaphor is so effective at getting Kate to face her demons is form and function united.
Meanwhile, form over function is any instance where more effort is put into how to do things than the intended effect. It is usually an instance of dissonance, where the way the story is told contradicts the themes or fails in the act of storytelling. Where too much focus has been placed on superficial features that hurt the effect of the story. An easy example of form over function would be a fight scene that is supposed to be violent and ugly, but instead looks beautiful and cool.
Form and function is a discussion on what you say and how you say it. It is about ensuring every choice you make isn’t because you want it to be cooler, or darer, or funnier, but that the choice to make the scene cooler, darker or funnier is made because it is the best choice for the story you want to tell (the function)
I loved everything about this issue and thought that kate’s battle with her “inner demons” was done amazingly well. My only problem with this issue was the newfound relationship between kate and johnny, I’ve re-read every issue to now and I personally don’t believe it. Yes, Thompson obviously established that they were attracted to each other by issue 2 or 3, but I think that this was purely physical attraction rather than a mix of mental and physical attraction similar to her relationship with patriot was like and I think that quinn was pretty much the character that best fit this mold. So, to end off I hope her relationship with johnny ends quickly. Anybody have any opinions?
Does she need a reason other than attraction?
I mean, this isn’t true love. This is dating. And what reason does Kate need to start dating other than ‘he’s hot, and I like him’? I mean, Kate has started relationships on less (Noh-var). Of course, the relationship in its current state is nowhere near the depth of Kate’s relationships with Eli/Patriot, Tommy/Speed or Noh-var. But that isn’t the point. This is a start. And the whole point of dating is to see if that depth can be found.
Now, this isn’t how Kate’s romances with Eli or Tommy begun. In those cases, entering a relationship was the end point of their romance. But there is nothing wrong with the relationship being the start. Of having Kate and Johnny’s relationship begin with them dating and seeing where it leads them. Maybe it becomes a romance as good as Eli. Maybe Johnny ends up her Lois Lane, her iconic love interest. Or maybe it is a relationship that is supposed to fall apart on its weak foundations, and that’s the story. Or maybe it just never really goes anywhere, and the relationship disappears as a new writer gives Kate a new love interest. But regardless of where is starts, the fact that it starts like this is just as legitimate as how the Kate/Eli relationship started with Kate’s annoyance at Eli’s condescension towards her.
I will admit that Johnny (and the rest of the friends) is underwritten. There isn’t too much to him other than ‘secure in his masculinity’. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with his relationship with Kate starting from something as simple as attraction. That’s how many relationships start. The real question is where they go from there.
Also, Quinn would have been completely the wrong relationship. It has been clear that despite Quinn being attracted to Kate, Kate doesn’t think of him that way. And tat jealous look at the end of this issue wasn’t the first time that Quinn has been a little… problematic. I think the fact that he doesn’t get the girl is supposed to be the point, and his story will be about what happens when a guy like Quinn has to deal with that. I’m not sure Quinn is a good guy
What other moments was quinn problematic? I understand that kate and quinn not being in a relationship was already established and after reading your reply I can see how her and johnny can work out. But from what I’ve read as of recently quinn doesn’t seem like a bad guy, including the hint of jealousy at the end this issue.
I don’t think Quinn is a bad guy, yet. But I think it might be where he is heading. At the very least, he does a couple of things that set alarm bells off
In issue 2, he asks Kate out in the middle of a conversation about the case. Which is a worrying set of priorities. If he’d asked her out after the case was done, in more of a social setting, that wouldn’t be a problem. But, in the middle of a conversation about what Quinn can do next to help in the case, Quinn seems to be focused on different priorities. He seems more interested in using the conversation as an excuse to ask Kate out than to actually help Mikka. That suggests a skewed set of priorities. It would have been much more appropriate to wait until the right time and place, and the fact that he didn’t when a girl’s life was at stake suggests that he isn’t helping Kate with her cases for entirely alturistic reasons.
And I’d call his phone call in issue 3 downright deceptive. Calling her, while being right outside her door is manipulative and a little creepy. He could have been honest. He could have stayed at home, and called her. Or he could have knocked on her door, and did the same thing. But the fact that he went over to her house, only to deceptively call her, suggests he was trying to manipulate events to his advantage. He could either get Kate to bring him along, or trick her into taking him along because he’s ‘in the area’. Create a situation where Kate had no choice but to accept him.. Again, all of this would not be a problem if he was a little bit more honest.
Him being jealous of Johnny isn’t a sign of that he is going to be a bad guy. But the fact that he is jealous and that he seems to regularly use deceptive means as a way to get closer to Kate does ring alarm bells. He could have found a better time that the middle of a conversation about a kidnapped woman to ask Kate out. He could have asked to come along in a much less deceptive way. But the fact that he didn’t makes me worry that his intentions towards Kate aren’t entirely pure, and that he isn’t as good of a guy as he initially appears.
Especially considering the California noir style of this book and the themes would mean a story where Quinn betrays Kate out of revenge for spurning him would be fitting